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MLB, MLBPA in talks to create a treatment program, not punishment, for opioid use

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Back in October it was revealed that Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs’ death was attributable to an opioid overdose. In the wake of that report, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association began discussions about the creation of a testing regime for opioids.

At the time this was met with some skepticism, because drug testing in professional sports has tended to focus on punishment and suspensions, and such things would likely discourage addicts from seeking the help they need rather than encourage it.

Yesterday, however, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark spoke to the press and said that MLB and the union were on the verge of an agreement that would put those concerns to rest:

Players who test positive for opioids would enter treatment and not be suspended under the change to Major League Baseball’s drug agreement being negotiated by management and the players’ association, according to union head Tony Clark.

. . . “We believe wholeheartedly, as we always have, that the treatment option and not discipline is the best route to go,” Clark said Wednesday as the union’s executive board finished its annual meeting.

Good to hear.

Not that all the work to be done on this matter requires a new agreement.

As we’ve discussed at length, Skaggs’ opioid use was well-known by many people in the game, including at least one high-ranking front office employee of the Angels. Per the current Joint Drug Agreement, team and league officials have an affirmative duty to report a players’ drug use to the league, which would then get him into a treatment program. The club failed in its duties in this regard. If it hadn’t — if the system in place had been adhered to — there is a chance that Skaggs could’ve gotten the help that could’ve saved his life. As such, there needs to be more education about such things for team employees.

In the meantime, however, a drug testing regime aimed at treatment — and a treatment program aimed at treating the addiction, not at just getting the addict back on the field — is welcome.

Reds sign Nicholas Castellanos to a four-year deal

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The Cincinnati Reds have signed outfielder Nicholas Castellanos to a multi-year deal. That’s the report from C. Trent Rosecrans and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Jon Morosi of MLB.com was the first to report the Reds as frontrunners. The deal is pending a physical. UPDATE: The deal is four years. Financial terms have yet to be reported.

With Castellanos in the fold the Reds are going to have a lot of outfielders when they hit Goodyear, Arizona in a couple of weeks, with newcomer Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Travis Jankowski, Scott Schebler, and Rule 5 draftee Mark Payton already on the roster. Senzel was an infielder before last year, of course, so he could move back to the dirt, perhaps taking over short from Freddy Galvis, who could be dealt. Alternatively, the Reds could trade from their newfound outfield surplus.

Castellanos, however, will have left field to himself. While he’s shaky at best with the glove, he had a breakout year at the plate in 2019, hitting .289/.337/.525 overall (OPS+ 121), but slugging at a blistering .321/.356/.646 pace (OPS+ 151) after being traded from the Tigers to the Cubs. In Chicago — rescued from cavernous Comerica Park — his big doubles power turned into big homer power.

Now that he’ll be playing in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark one can only imagine the damage he’d do.